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Kewarra Beach Retreat and Nature Lodge

Kewarra Beach Retreat and Nature Lodge by night

Smithfield, Queensland, Australia
Here eco again: Blue List Hotels hits the Queensland coast and discovers an idyllic naturalist resort where going green in luxury won't cost you the earth.

first impressions
A secluded hideaway in picturesque North Queensland that's 'sweet' in biblical proportions: set on the 22-acre site of a former sugar plantation, this four-star retreat is Cain and Able to provide guests with the ultimate holiday experience.

Nestled amongst a natural oasis of crystal-clear blue lagoons, and surrounded by swathes of tropical palms and endemic rainforest a lush habitat that provides a home to dozens of native species – this family-friendly resort has its roots firmly grounded in sensitive eco-tourism.

Boasting its own, extensive Botanical Gardens, and with detached, secluded suites, it's no surprise that this wonderfully romantic hotel has become a firm favourite with honeymooners the world over.

Just 20 minutes drive from Cairns International Airport, Kewarra is perfectly located to explore the region's quiet, pristine beaches, its unspoilt coastlines, and northern Australia's rugged outback. What's more, if you plan to swim, dive, snorkel, sail (or simply photograph) the Great Barrier Reef, you've come to the right place – Kewarra is, without question, the best situated hotel in Queensland from which to do so.

Whether you take part in one of the 50+ nature-based excursions, spoil yourself with spa treatments, or just relax with a gourmet picnic under a canopy of stars, expect a wild adventure from the outset.

bedrooms
Guest accommodation, set cosily amongst the resort's lush landscaped gardens, is spacious, modern and exceptionally well-appointed.

Tropical bungalows, (referred-to by their traditional islander name, 'Mouds'), offer magnificent views of the rainforest and the natural lagoon, and are ideal for families and couples alike. The Pandanus Deluxe Bungalows are outfitted to the highest standard in bespoke tropical furnishings. Each boasts King Sized beds as standard, large TVs, ceiling fans, tea and coffee-making facilities, direct-dial telephones, a well-stocked mini-bar, clock radio, iron (and ironing board), and internet access. Bathrooms are light, spacious and come with power shower, deep tub, and a range of complimentary environmentally-friendly toiletries. Their wooden verandas are wonderful; a perfect spot to unwind with a beer and listen to the chorus of local wildlife.

A cottage at Kewarra Beach Retreat and Nature Lodge

With a separate bunk-room for kids, the Tropical Family Bungalows are ideal for parents with up to two young children (up to 14 years). Also outfitted with exclusive tropical décor, these villas offer hard-to-beat views of the gardens. Each comes with all the mod-cons of the Pandanus: tea and coffee-making facilities, direct-dial telephones, internet access, large TV, clock radio, mini-bar, ceiling fans and huge private veranda.

If it's beachfront accommodation you're after, look no further than the Suites and Honeymoon Bungalows. These luxurious villas were cleverly designed to "blend into the natural rainforest gardens" – and do exactly that.

The Pipi Beachfront Bungalows, with spectacular ocean views, are a honeymooner's dream (or the father of the bride's nightmare, depending, perhaps, on who foots the bill!). These romantic hideaways have King Sized beds, air conditioning throughout, wooden floors, custom-made furniture, direct-dial telephones, internet access, and hand-made tropical furnishings. They also feature all the mod-cons of the Pandanus and Family Bungalows, above.

The one and two-bedroom Bauhinia Suites, meanwhile, are billed as "stunning" – and do not disappoint. Built around a water feature, they feature private patios with matching deck furniture, modern interiors with spacious living areas, and immaculate en-suite bathrooms; stylish, then, in every way.

But if it's something a little larger you're after, while retaining the utmost privacy, you might try Timara Cottage – a lovingly restored plantation cottage surrounded by the lagoon. With two bedrooms, each with en-suites, a spacious lounge, a wrap-around veranda, and even its own bar, this is family holidaying at its best. Unique bridge access across the freshwater lagoon guarantees hours of fun for the kids.

Note that all Kewarra's accommodation is currently being modernised and, according to hotel bosses, the result will be an even fresher, more modern and more comfortable resort than ever before.

food and drink
Stay at many 'green' resorts, and you'll need an 'eco sounder'...to find a decent meal. Not so at Kewarra: its lively Island King Restaurant serves-up mouth-watering dishes from dawn to dusk, seven days-a-week. Named in honour of the former chiefs of the nearby Torres Strait Islands, this stunning eatery looks out over the resort's tropical gardens and lush rainforests. In fact, it's no surprise why the Island King is a firm favourite with non-guests from the region.

Dishes here, lovingly crafted and prepared by a team of expert Master Chefs, are as you'd imagine: excellent. Their new menu is bursting with signature treats, making any meal here an evening to celebrate (usually with a selection of fine Australian wines from the cocktail bar!).

Breakfast is a lavish buffet, with fresh fruit, cereals, home-made pastries, and – if you're feeling really hungry – made-to-order cooked dishes.

For something really special, head to the beach for a three-course, a la carte meal beneath the stars. With a private, candle-lit table set right on the beach – and even your very own waiter and violinist! – this evening experience is likely to spark some "Tarantino Tears" – it's True Romance, after all. These tailor-made dining options can be booked through Reception.

Gourmet picnics are also a great way to indulge – without having to leave your villa. The 'Waltzing Matilda Basket' offers premium cheeses, choice cuts of locally-sourced meat, pickles, homemade breads, and a selection of fruits. The 'Coral Sea Baskets' have fresh prawns, Moreton Bay Bugs, oysters, scallops and a French loaf.

service with a smile?
Flying into Cairns International Airport is a joy – when you're met by the welcoming staff of Kewarra, anyway. Relax while you're whisked-away to the resort and, as your bags are being dropped-off in your room, sit back and enjoy a complimentary cocktail from the cocktail bar.

Staff are friendly – both to guests but, perhaps more importantly, each other – and are supremely knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora around the resort. Reception, which is open 24-hours-a-day, is also a great place to learn more about the local region, and about the variety of activities on offer (see 'Local Attractions', below).

By the lagoon at Kewarra Beach Retreat and Nature Lodge

Custom-made wedding and honeymoon packages are also available through the resort's expert planners.

The 'Kuda Meta', our main lodge, is a wonderfully tranquil place to spend an afternoon; the staff here are always on-hand to ensure your every wish is catered-for. It's also the ideal spot to surf the net, relax with a book from the resort library, cheat at chess, or keep up to date with world affairs with the selection of international newspapers.

Guests have access to two world-class golf clubs, Paradise Palms, and Port Douglas Links. If, like our writer, you still have a fairway to go before playing here, you can get into the swing of things with your very own golf lesson, also organised by reception.

The resort offers guest laundry, an international currency exchange, room service, childminding, and even a secretarial service (on request).

Wheelchair-accessible bedrooms are available.

local attractions
With your own white-sand beach less than 30 seconds from Reception, you might find that swimming, beachcombing, snorkelling and sunbathing's enough ... if it's not, don't worry: there's everything to do here and more.

You might kick-start your day, literally, with a few laps in the resort's two saltwater swimming pools. Then head to nearby Cairns to explore the shops, restaurants and bars. Here's a tip: leave your car behind and take the stress-free courtesy coach that leaves the resort every day. Alternatively, take a scenic drive up the picturesque Captain Cook Highway to the town of Port Douglas.

But you might find that you don't have time to leave the resort at all – there's so much to do here! Head to the Adventure Desk, which offers a complimentary booking service for every local tour and attraction. With their help, you can arrange a day's diving on the Barrier Reef, take a guided trip to the rainforests, visit Aboriginal cave paintings, soar over the outback in a hot air balloon, or lose the contents of your breakfast in some white-water rapids.

The resort also arranges dozens of eco-tours, and local cultural experiences. With the help of expert guides, you can learn about the local birdlife (177 species and counting), take guided safaris (butterflies, platypus and even crocodiles are common), or visit a local winery.

Tours to the ultra-exclusive Double Island Resort (Kewarra's sister property) are inexpensive and, according to A-list actor and regular guest, Keanu Reeves, a "positive, life-changing experience".

will it break the bank?
We've used the pun before and we'll use it again ... going green here doesn't cost the earth.

Rates for the Tropical Family Bungalows start from AU$168 per night; Deluxe Pandanus Bungalows start from AU$330; Pipi Mouds from AU$420; one-bedroom Bauhinia Suites start at AU$490; two-bedroom Bauhinia Suites from AU$646. The Timara Cottage also costs AU$646 per night.

Packages available throughout the year.

Details
Kewarra Beach Retreat and Nature Lodge
P.O. Box 1357
Smithfield, 4870 QLD, Australia
Web: www.kewarra.com

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